Despite a tidal wave of opposition from the Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation, the California Coastal Commission decided in a 4-3 vote last week to keep a rock revetment intact on Goleta Beach for the next 30 months in order to protect the seashore and surrounding park from erosion.

The CCC approved a plan last Thursday to renew a permit allowing the County of Santa Barbara to keep a temporary rock revetment – a layer of rocks designed to protect land located near the ocean from erosion – on Goleta Beach to safeguard the area during severe storms. California Coastal Commission member Dan Secord said the County of Santa Barbara will review the environmental impact of the revetment within 30 months, when the permit for the structure expires, to determine whether it should become a permanent fixture on the beach.

According to Secord, the revetment was installed in 2002 as an emergency measure to prevent Goleta Beach and the nearby park from being washed out during the winter storms.

“The kelp that once protected the beach has been washed away,” Secord said. “I believe that the rocks should be permanent if that is what it takes to save the park.”

However, Scott Bull, chairman of the Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation, said his organization believes that while the revetment may temporarily protect the park from storm-related damage, it would have more negative long-term effects on the beach by disrupting the coastline’s natural cycle of erosion.

Bull said it is natural for some erosion to occur at the beach during winter months, and most of this seasonal damage is usually reversed during the summer. The revetment disrupts this annual cycle, causing the beach to lose more sand in the long run as the beach’s natural defenses against erosion are weakened.

“In the long-term there will be more erosion, especially in the winter,” Bull said. “By placing rocks on the beach you end up messing with the natural system and it is hard to get it back to its original state.”

Although he wants to see the beach protected from erosion, Bull said, he also thinks it is inevitable that rising sea levels will result in some sand being washed away during the next few years. Regardless, he said nature tends to prevail over human attempts at intervention, and the commission’s close vote proves that some of its members agree with him.

“That close of a vote by the Coastal Commission sends a clear message that they won’t accept a proposal for a permanent revetment on Goleta Beach,” Bull said.

Secord said that throughout his involvement in the debate over the revetment, he has found that most people either adamantly oppose the proposal, or are passionately in favor of it.

“People either think that nature will take the park and there is nothing to do about it, or that they want to save the park at all costs,” he said.